Am I an employee?

Most people who work for businesses are classed as employees. You’re usually an employee if you:

  • work regularly unless on agreed/ annual leave
  • have to work a minimum number of hours each week and expect to be paid for those hours
  • have a line manager who is in charge of your workload. They tell you how work should be done and when it should be finished
  • cannot send someone else to do your work for you
  • are called an employee in your contract of employment or job offer letter.

Other signals you are an employee are that your employer:

  • has redundancy procedures in place at work that apply to you
  • gives you the tools and equipment to do the job
  • has a disciplinary and grievance procedure in place that applies to you
  • has a business pension scheme that you can join
  • provides statutory sick pay and paid family leave
  • provides you with paid holiday.

If one or more of these things don’t apply to you, you may be self-employed or a worker. If you aren’t sure, you can check with who you work for. You can also seek advice.

Am I a worker?

You’re usually a worker if you:

  • do casual work and are not offered regular or guaranteed hours 
  • are not usually required to be available for work but you have to complete the work you agree to do
  • have a contract with a company to do work or provide services personally. In return you are paid or given more work. The company cannot be your own company, or one of your customers or clients. As long as that contract is in place, the company has to provide you work
  • are expected to do the work in most cases i.e. you cannot send someone else to do the work for you.

If none of these apply, for example if you have complete control over who you work for, and how you do the work, and you send invoices to get paid for your work, then you may be self-employed. 

Your employment rights

As a worker, you are entitled to:

  • a written contract or statement from the company confirming your work arrangements 
  • protection against unlawful deductions from your pay
  • itemised pay statements
  • be paid at least the National Minimum Wage
  • protection from discrimination
  • paid annual leave and rest breaks
  • protection if you blow the whistle

As an employee, you are entitled to everything a worker is entitled to and:

You must work for an employer for a set amount of time before you can qualify for some rights. Ask your manager if you’re unsure. 

Flexible working

Many people still work from home since the pandemic. This might be for lots of reasons.

It may have made childcare easier. It may have cut travel time and costs. Some people do a mixture of working from home and from the office. This is called hybrid or agile working.

>Many businesses continue to benefit from home and hybrid working too.

But some people might prefer to be at their place of work. Some may want to do both. Some employers are asking their employees to return to the office for some or all of the time. Whether your employer can ask you to return to the office may depend on what your contract of employment says. Your employer should always act reasonably if they want to change your current working pattern, regardless of what your contract says.

Employees who have been with their employer for 26 weeks or more have a right to requestflexible working if they would like to continue working from home, or to request any other flexible working arrangement. Employees only have the right to make one request every 12 months. Workers do not have a right to make a flexible working request.

You must make your request in writing and explain what changes you would like and how any impact to the business could be managed. Your employer does not have to accept your request. But it can only reject it for specific business reasons.

You might not get everything you want. Try to work things out to suit you and the business you work for. Working from home some or all the time might be right for you. Changing your hours, working more flexibly or splitting your day are options to think about.

Businesses should at least explore the options of flexible working with you and respond to your request in a reasonable way. If your employer rejects your request and this impacts you due to childcare or other caring responsibilities, or because you have a disability, your employer may have discriminated against you. You may be able to bring a claim.

Caring for someone

Many of us will have to care for someone during our lifetimes. Around one in eight adults have a caring role at any one time.

The number of carers rose during the pandemic, as vulnerable and older people self- isolated.

If you need to take on or keep on with a caring role, talk to you employer. They may be able to offer you flexible working. Cutting down or changing your hours or working from home might help.

You might only need to care for someone for a short time. You can ask about using holiday leave or unpaid leave to do so. Your employer might be able to offer you paid compassionate leave. Ask them about this.

If you provide care for 35 hours a week or more to someone in receipt of certain benefits, you might qualify for carers’ allowance. You can claim even if you are in paid part-time work.

Carers’ allowance is £76.75 per week. Find out more from Carers UK.

Check if you’re eligible for carers’ allowance 

Sick pay

You must tell your employer promptly if you can’t work due to ill health. Businesses normally have procedures in place for reporting sickness.

Businesses should also have procedures in place for payment of sick pay. This should be explained in your contract of employment.

Currently, you can get up to £109.40 per week statutory sick pay if you’re too ill to go to work. This will be paid by your employer for up to 28 weeks.

You can’t get less than this amount. Your employer might pay you more. Always check your contract or speak to your employer.

To qualify for statutory sick pay, you must:

  • earn an average of at least £123 per week
  • be an employee
  • have been ill for at least four consecutive days.

You are entitled to statutory sick pay from the fourth day you’re off ill. You are entitled to it on the days you would normally be working.

If you have more than one job, you may be able to claim for each. You still pay tax and national insurance. Check if you can claim sick pay

There are different rules for people working in agriculture.

Your rights when having a baby

When you take time off work to have a baby, you may be entitled to maternity leave and pay and paid time off for ante-natal care.

All employees are entitled to up to 52 weeks maternity leave. Your employment rights are protected during this time. You still get pay rises and can build up holiday. And you have a right to return to work.

You do not have to take all your maternity leave. But you must take at least two weeks of it. This is four weeks if you work in a factory.

If you have worked for your employer for a minimum period, you should be eligible for statutory maternity pay. This is paid for up to 39 weeks of your maternity leave.

You are entitled to:

  • 90% of your average weekly wage (before tax) for the first 6 weeks
  • £172.48 or 90% of your average weekly wage (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks.

If you are not eligible for maternity pay, you may be eligible for maternity allowance instead (which is paid at the same rate).

You can claim maternity leave and pay if you’re an employee, but you can’t claim if you’re classed as a worker or self-employed.

Check the details about maternity rights and learn how to claim.

Unfair and constructive dismissal

Employees who have worked for their employer for at least 2 years are protected from unfair and constructive dismissal from their jobs. Your dismissal could be unfair if your employer doesn’t:

  • have a fair reason for dismissing you
  • follow a fair process.

There are 5 potentially fair reasons for dismissal:

  1. Conduct
  2. Capability, for example ill health or poor performance 
  3. Redundancy
  4. A legal reason, for example if you are a lorry driver who is banned from driving
  5. ‘Some other substantial reason’, such as a complete loss of trust and confidence.

Your employer should follow its own disciplinary procedure before dismissing you. If you are being dismissed for your conduct or your performance, your employer’s procedure must follow the ACAS code on disciplinary and grievance procedures.

If you have not worked for your employer for at least 2 years, you may still be able to bring a claim if your employer did not follow the terms of your contract when dismissing you, or if your dismissal was connected to a legal right, such as taking maternity leave.

Constructive dismissal happens when you’re forced to leave your job because of your employer’s conduct. 

You must have serious reasons for leaving your job:

  • They didn’t pay you
  • They suddenly demoted you for no reason
  • They forced you to accept unreasonable changes to how you work. For instance, they told you to work weekends and night shifts when your contract is only for day work, Monday to Friday
  • You were the victim of unresolved harassment or bullying.

If you have been dismissed or you have resigned, you may be able to bring a claim in the employment tribunal for unfair or constructive dismissal. You must start the process of bringing a claim within 3 months of your last day of employment. You must speak to ACAS for early conciliation first. ACAS will try and resolve the dispute on your behalf before you can bring any claim in the employment tribunal.

If you feel you have a claim for unfair or constructive dismissal, seek more information from Acas or get legal advice. 

Check if you have a claim for unfair or constructive dismissal